SEJ didn't single out journo who questioned Al Gore

Printer-friendly version

There's been a lot of back and forth in the last few days about the incident at the recent Society of Environmental Journalists' conference in which a journalist trying to question Al Gore saw his microphone cut off.

Lots of folks out in the blogosphere are saying SEJ censored a journalist. I'm here to tell you it ain't so, and explain that at journalism conferences and press conferences, where lots of journos are waiting with questions, we just don't give other journos carte blanche to dominate the microphone. I'll also point out how the supposedly censored filmmaker could have been a lot more effective.

[caption id="attachment_5035" align="alignright" width="150" caption="This Gore mug's a little dated, but at least I am sure it's in the public domain."]This Gore mug's a little dated, but at least I am sure it's in the public domain.[/caption]

(Full disclosure: I'm a member of SEJ's board of directors. So I'm predisposed to defend the organization. But I'm also a journalist who, were I to mar my body with a tattoo, would have "Question Authority" stamped indelibly onto my wrist or forehead or some other conspicuous place. Also consider that I came on the environment beat in the late 1980s amid an explosion of stories about this new threat called global warming. I asked a lot of skeptical questions before finally seeing by 1997 that the science was being proved out. My first climate stories appeared that year, keyed to the Kyoto talks.)

When Gore finished his speech to a plenary session of the SEJ conference in Madison, Wisconsin, I was glad that independent filmmaker and climate-change skeptic Phelim McAleer was the first in line to question Gore. You have to understand that Gore has systematically sought to avoid such inquiries by journalists for years after his film "The Inconvenient Truth" came out. That's indefensible.

And, look, one of the really basic tenets about journalism is: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out." We are in the question business. So even though McAleer seems not to understand the growing agreement among climate scientists about global warming as a significant threat, more power to him for asking a tough question. It's what we do. You go, Phel!

Gore -- this really ticks me off -- avoided answering the query. It's not unusual for a politician to sidestep a journo's inquiry. But that doesn't make it right. Every journalist in that room knew Gore wasn't giving McAleer a straight answer. That is what we do: We try to get politicians (and others) to answer hard questions. Sadly, we're not always successful.

To be fair to the former veepster, McAleer's question focused on a British court ruling that found nine errors in Gore's movie. Now, with maybe 10 minutes of Q-and-A left and perhaps a dozen journos lined up to ask questions, did McAleer really expect Gore to go through all nine errors from a court ruling several years ago and respond to each one? There would be just one Q and one A in the whole Q-and-A session.

Still, Gore could have addressed the question instead of trying to deflect it. He did not.

I've covered way too many press conferences and media availabilities to count. It's got to be in the hundreds. I've been to many conferences of SEJ and Investigative Reporters and Editors, and a few others as well.

In all those venues, journalists are expected to accord each other some courtesy. You can't hog the floor. SEJ rules formalize this somewhat, allowing members to ask a question and a brief follow-up before yielding the microphone to others in line.

This was far from the first time I've seen someone cut off -- at a press conference by other journos, or at conferences by the organizers -- for dominating the microphone. You can ask the question. You can ask the follow-up. And then, you're done. Anyone who's seen a White House press conference is familiar with this dynamic.

Now, here's what went wrong in Madison for my buddy Phel: You have to craft your single followup to be tight. Bulletproof. Something that puts the politician in a spot where he has to answer, or at least make it painful for him not to answer.

Often an effective follow-up is succinct and simple.

Instead, McAleer allowed Gore -- a wily politician - to bollix him up in a  meaningless yes-you-did-no-I-didn't debate about polar bear population dynamics. (Most of my video-producing friends know better. They honor the KISS principle.)

When you find yourself in a situation like McAleer did, you wait for the politician to finish whatever he's saying.

Then you offer your followup. Here are a couple of suggestions for what McAleer might have asked when Gore dodged his question:

1) So, you're acknowledging the errors but you don't plan to correct them?

2) Why won't you correct the errors and why do you usually avoid venues like this where journalists can ask you direct questions about your errors?

3) Why do you refuse to discuss or even acknowledge the errors noted by the British court?

OK, you get the idea. Bottom line is that McAleer needed to be a little better prepared for Gore's refusal to answer his question. It was quite predictable. If you want more, check out the video.

I'd like to point out that it's my understanding that Gore tried to get the same deal from SEJ he's gotten from -- according to McAleer -- everyone else he's appeared before in recent years: No questions. But that's not the way SEJ works. The conference organizers insisted he field journalists' inquiries. That's what gave McAleer his moment in the spotlight that got his mug onto Lou Dobbs, The O'Reilly Factor and other shows -- just before his latest film debuted.

One final point: The idea that journalists on the environment beat don't ask environmentalists tough questions is way off base. The only way a journalist of any stripe can make sure his story is defensible is to ask tough questions of all sides and see where the chips fall. I'm sure enviros I've dealt with over the years would verify that they don't get a free ride with me.

As for McAleer, I very much hope he joins SEJ again next year at its annual conference in Missoula, Montana -- but leaves the microphone-hogging at home.

-- Robert McClure

Comments

Robert, With all of your "experience" I find your response disappointing and typical of those who blindly believe and fearlessly follow. You stated, " I find it difficult to pay much attention to the cherry-picked arguments by laymen, such as you, to the effect that those thousands of scientists are wrong. You also said "As a practical matter, if I was to respond to everything Eddy Aruda and Russell and you asked, I’d be here all day. That is not my job. And as I mentioned, I do have another part of my job, the bulk of it, which is original reporting to produce news stories. Wow! I hope you are more competent at your real job which involves "original reporting." I assume you do research and verify claims and statements as being factual? Since you cannot respond with facts or rebuttals perhaps you should not write on the subject at all. You regurgitate the quasi religious line that the "IPCC has spoken" and yet you cannot cite any empirical evidence to underlie the IPCC claims. if you cannot respond logically to honest questions or refute arguments with empirical data then perhaps you should consider a career change! If you do not have the time to do it right then don't do it at all.
For Jim Chambers and anyone else who would like to know more about what's going on with polar bears. Source: www.sej.org MORE ON POLAR BEARS -- "Magic Number: a Sketchy "Fact" About Polar Bears Keeps Going...And Going... And Going," SEJournal, August 15, 2008, by Peter Dykstra. -- US Geological Survey: Links to various studies on polar bear population and habitat. -- "More on the Polar Bear's Fate," Dot Earth (New York Times), March 24, 2009, by Andrew C. Revkin -- Dr. Andrew Derocher (polar bear expert), University of Alberta, -- "Survival and breeding of polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea in relation to sea ice," Regehr EV, Hunter CM, Caswell H, Amstrup SC, Stirling I.; Journal of Animal Ecology, 2009 Sep 14. -- "Effects of climate change on polar bears," Wiig O, Aars J, Born EW., Science Progress, 2008;91 (Pt 2):151-73. -- "Polar Bears and Climate Change," ActionBioscience, May 2008, by Andrew E. Derocher -- "Sea ice-associated diet change increases the levels of chlorinated and brominated contaminants in polar bears," Mckinney MA, Peacock E, Letcher RJ.; Environmental Science & Technology, 2009 Jun 15;43(12):4334-9.
For commenter Steve, In my comment #9 above is the link to the NIPCC 2009 Report, completely free downloads of all materials are available there. References to each of the papers cited are at the end of each section. How are you able to show a connection in each cited paper or in the authors'/contributing authors' writings, to ideological direction mandated the Heartland Institute? What is your reaction to the peer-reviewed science journal paper published just this past July by Richard Lindzen, titled "On the determination of climate feedbacks from ERBE data", where he "demonstrates by direct measurement that outgoing longwave radiation is escaping to space far faster than the UN predicts, showing that the UN has exaggerated global warming 6-fold"? Does the existence of his work and those in the NIPCC 2009 Report as peer-reviewed science journal-published papers not undermine yours and others' assertions that there are no such papers? Regarding the multi-national 'authorities' you cite, what is your reaction to Australia being unable to pass their Senate's version of a climate bill several months ago? Is whatever national science academy they have less effective than it should be against Australian skeptic scientists? As for the "trick" explanation of yours, how does it compare to the far more elaborate explanation of Steve McIntyre here?: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/28/how-the-trick-was-pulled-off/#more...
Russell: I went to the NIPCC (Heartland Institute) site, but did not find a discrete location that lists published peer reviewed papers that ostensibly support the claims that (if I got this right) burning hydrocarbons is actually environmentally helpful. The Hwartland Institute "report" is not available online at their website, so I'm afraid its impossible to even cursorily review the scientific literature the authors cite or relied onwithout purchasing their book, which I am not going to do. I do find it difficult to take seriously as a source of scientific information an ideologically driven advocacy group that views everything through the lens of an economic ideology and always comes to conclusions supportive of that ideology. The Heartland Institute is distinctly not a scientific body. As I stated, I recognize (or at least try to recognize) the limits of my expertise. So I rely on "experts." Every major scientific body in the world has endorsed the conclusion that the global climate is changing. Most of these have also endorsed the view that a significant component of this change is due to human emission of fossil carbon in the form of coal and oil. I trust the position of the national science academies of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, the Caribbean, China, France, Ghana, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, India, Japan, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, New Zealand, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Sweden, Tanzania, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, as well as the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It would be easy continue to list scientific bodies that endorse this view, but I won't belabor this point further. Long lists of these bodies are readily available on the web for anyone who cares to look. By comparison, the contrarian view has precisely NO support from any scientific body of any standing within the scientific community. So Russell, to take this back where it began, the contrarians better start doing research good enough to pass peer review if they want to be taken seriously in the scientific community. By the way, here is my take on the misrepresentation of the stolen emails: Fred: I fixed the broken carbeurator by giving it a good whack with a 2 x 4. Jim: Good trick! Auto Repair Skeptic: Jim and Fred entered into a conspiracy to mislead us into thinking there was something wrong with the carbeurator. These emails prove that they consciously tried to trick us.
Folks — This is all about UNANSWERED QUESTIONS, and unsupported assertions and allegations. McAleer's question about the 9 errors in Gore's movie remains unanswered. My challenge to the assertion that there are others who document the corruption of skeptics remains unanswered, my questions about environmental journalists checking the veracity of Gelbspan’s and the others’ claims remains unanswered. To commenter Toby Thaler, I ask: What evidence do you offer to support your claim that there is no longer serious debate within the global scientific community about AGW? Where is there any evidence of anger in the questions I ask, how does it follow that I do not want to engage in a true debate when I am asking questions? To Steve Erickson, I ask: what is your response to the thousands of papers cited in NIPCC 2009 that are peer-reviewed and published in science journals? In response to Toby's question to me, "Why are you so adamantly opposed to taking those actions?", I simply paraphrase the one I posed to commenter Andrew: "Would you not argue that taking the actions you speak of is potentially unnecessary, if skeptics can not be proven wrong? Is it not detrimental to your position to ignore skeptics 'as much as possible' when a far more convincing solution would be to show not only with great precision where the skeptics' science criticisms and conclusions are wrong, but also show with even greater precision how they have been corrupted by coal/oil industry executives? If the IPCC / Gore side chooses to ignore skeptics' criticisms as the best plan of action, how do they then avoid a perception by the general public that they lack confidence in defending their position in an open public debate?
Folks -- Recall that this post was really about whether a particular journalist was censored at a particular recent journalism conference. I hope I've been clear in earlier responses to comments that I do not intend to get into a time-wasting debate about whether human-caused climate change is occurring. There many questions that remain to be answered about how it's going to play out, but the weight of scientific evidence that it's occurring is overwhelming. And I'm a busy guy. Now, I checked back in here this evening just to alert those who may still be following this string that yesterday and today I put up two postings that are somewhat related to this one, based on a visit by Al Gore to Seattle today. They're at http://bit.ly/xGNUk and http://bit.ly/2QpQkJ. Robert McClure
I accept numerous theories in my day-to-day life (as does everyone else) because I recognize that the breadth and depth of human culture and knowledge is such that no matter how smart I may be, one person cannot possibly be an expert in everything. I'm an ecologist, not a climatologist. So I accept the conclusions of other people - and groups of other people, regularly. Now if someone insists to me that there is no such thing as gravity and we're tethered to the ground by long, but invisible, sticky fibers my response is "Have you submitted this for publication in a peer reviewed scientific journal?" (Actually, my response might be to see if they're angry looking or smiling, which would probably determine how close I might let them get to me.) While I'm very well acquainted with the practical effects of gravity on my body, I frankly don't know beans about the underlying physics. There could well be invisible fibers connecting me to the ground, but the majority view is that there is another explanation for why we don't get flung off the Earth by centrifical force from its rotation. So, I go with the majority view. Now, I recognize that mainstream and majoritarian scientific views do not always stand the test of time and increasing knowledge. Plate techtonics and catastrophic ice age floods are examples that come to mind. But in those cases, change in the widely accepted scientific view occurred by evidence and peer reviewed science accumulating over time, as well as the gradual die off of the old guard scientists. So skeptics, all I can say is keep publishing - err, I guess I meant to say start publishing, preferably in peer reviewed scientific journals. As far as producing any kind of serious challenge to the majority scientific view, you're not doing any better than the Intelligent Design crowd.
I have been involved in natural resource management for thirty years as a policy advocate. While I'm not a scientist, I have been carefully reading and evaluating the scientific/academic literature on climate change almost as long as Robert McClure. A few of my take away points: • Robert is correct: there is no longer serious debate within the global scientific community about the anthropogenic underpinnings of much if not most current climate change. The arguments now are all about details: mechanisms (e.g., where is the carbon moving), tradeoffs (e.g., aerosol effect of GHGs), tipping points, timing, and the like. • Andrew Walker is correct: "who is right seems unimportant as the upside of doing something is there no matter what and the downside of not doing anything could be horrible." We forget that the point here is to maintain/improve the quality of life for humans and every other creature. The same measures needed to address climate change will necessarily improve our quality of life (and in many cases should be done regardless). Why are you so adamantly opposed to taking those actions, Russell et al? • The carrying capacity of the planet in terms of human population has probably been exceeded. I.e., 7,000,000,000 people is not "sustainable" (a much misused word!) and certainly not at increased levels of consumption. The only question is how the decrease to a truly sustainable level will occur. Robert is too polite to say it, so I will: Russell et al. come across as angry apologists for the current regime. They do not want to engage in a true debate. I think it's time to ignore them as much as possible and move on with developing and implementing solutions.
Andrew, How does it follows that Robert won this 'comment debate', if he hasn't conclusively shown us how skeptic scientists are not credible? How reliable can environmental journalists be when they claim a 'vast' or 'overwhelming' consensus of scientists rule the day, while never actually explaining in great detail what this consensus actually is? In regard to your question #3, if it cannot be established that CO2 drives global warming and is thus harmless, there is no upside to regulating it, correct? On your #2 & #4 questions, what is your reaction when you see credible skeptic scientists saying this phenomenon is natural? If such scientists are said to be corrupt, are you not hungry to find out the fine details of what irrefutably proves that? If you discover no such details exist, would you not argue that the "effective change" you speak of is potentially unnecessary change?
Hi robert, Firstly thanks for a cracking good read, the above was entertaining stuff. I found this article while googling after a discussion with friend of mine who was obviously passionate in his disbelief of global warming. He cited the gore incident, a change of the term global warming to "climate crises" and gave me some key words to search that would return many of the views stated above by russel. For my part, I hadn't done any research related to the question of whether or not global warming was true or not before this point. The discussion with my friend surprised me, because what I had read so far was all about what steps we could take rather than whether or not we should be trying to do anything. To clarify who I am before I give you my two bobs worth - I'm a management consultant working in operational efficiency in financial services institutions. Ie I have no bias either way, have no prior knowledge either way and have no need for any financial influence either way. Also, the people I hang out with could hardly be described as environmentally aware, let alone activists. So that on the table, here's my view: There are obviously some pretty old arguments here and, as you point out, its hard to find a credible source arguing that global warming is not true. I'm not going to pretend to have a valid oppinion on whether everyone is right or not- but the people whos oppinion seems unbias, and is peer reviewed have spoken. Where I did see global warming get bagged lately was on fox news, who quoted a poll showing waning interest in global warming as an issue. Herein lies the point at which my expertise is relevent. My job is essentially to change peoples behaviour. Implementing some simple, fundamental disciplines in simple processing environments in order to control the work better and increase productivity. Why this is relevant is that to change even a very simple behaviour, in a controlled environment, takes a remarkable amount of effort. That's why a company pays a million bucks for consultants to come and implement the changes instead of just doing it themself. Let me give you an example. One way to organise a messy team with out of control work is to implement simple work trays for incoming jobs to be placed in for centralised management rather than being dumped straight on staffs desks. Sounds like it could just be done, but for effective implementation, we need to have an effective plan for what trays, where they'll go, how work will be logged etc etc. Then we need to have a discussion with the team manager to make sure they understand the idea (even if they don't fully agree yet) and make sure everyone is on the same page for what happens next. Then we hold a communication session with the staff to explain the reasoning and concept of this approach and how it will be done. Next we spend a day going around to each staff making sure they understand in detail and we practise logging things into their specific tray. Then we have an implementation day where we have another quick meeting to make sure everyone remembers that this is the way from now on, and we walk the floor the whole day to make sure the new process is followed. We then continuosly follow up throughout the project to ensure we are on the right track, make changes where things aren't working and keep improving the system. Why did you tell me that? I hear you ask. Well if I were to take your argument to its logical extention in my job, I should make sure everyone has had a chance to argue that the status quo is better at every stage of the project. Lucky for me, I can demonstrate through previous results to the senior management so they contract us to come in, assess, and take appropriate action. Its not a debate because we're there to improve things. Now in the context of a massive overhaul of the worlds power and transport systems, its obvious that its a pretty hard road ahead! Making those changewill take mind-boggling effort and in particular will need a tide of public oppinion if it is possible. So let's talk about two aspects of your argument. Firstly, if it turns out you are right and the peer-reviewed scientific community are wrong, so what? Secondly, if the mainstream media took up the debate you want them to, what would be the impact? So what if you are right? - well, we go ahead and make changes that clean up the atmosphere (even if that doesn't effect the temperature I'm sure you'd agree itd be pretty nice), the world stops relying on the middle east for so much oil - which without doubt will help stabilise that region, and the worlds economy, and lastly a bunch of really really ridiculously rich dudes willbe slightly less ridiculously rich. Am I missing something? Secondly, the impact of a widescale public debate on whether or not the threat is real - if this happens, apart from reflecting a skewed picture as robert points out, it will change the framework of how this entire issue is discussed.instead of "how can we fix this?" Chatsaround dinner tables will be "is this real?" As it was before. Fox nexs by the way are already doing their best to do this by quoting their oppinion, a strategy which scarily is shown frequently to be far more effective than statung actual information. So in conclusion: 1 I think robert is the winner of the debate (plus I watched the conference video and loved roberts assessment) 2 I can't begin to interpret the science of global warming but enough credible people say its a big enough problem that the more I've started reading, the more I'm hungry to help make a difference 3 who is right seems unimportant as the upside of doing something is there no matter what and the downside of not doing anything could be horrible 4 if this debate was mainstream, its the same end result as having the debate and deciding global warming is a fraud. If public perception is that this is an argument, effective change is impossible I'm sure this is an unpopular post but who cares, wish I had more training as a writer so I was as interesting as you all! Got any tips robert? :-) Cheers and happy ranting, Andrew
Mr. McClure, Your last few responses seem to be saying "Do you believe the Polar Bears are not endangered?" to the questioners. How, then, can we, your underserved readers, take you seriously if you don't answer the questions but, as did A Gore, try and sidestep them? Obviously Interested. Jim
Robert - Thanks for the time you've spent here when other concerns demand your time. With all due respect, however, these are reasonably easy questions to answer, boiled down into one basically asked as, "is it journalistic malfeasance to exclude an entire facet of a story, based on what appears to be unsupported criticism of people involved in a potentially critical part of it?" If others have covered the discrediting of skeptic scientists, why not have ready access to such reports and their specifics when somebody like me asks about it, so that I can be reassured that such a major side of the issue has been dealt with conclusively, including a thorough check of those accusers' assertions? If you have that, do they make up for what may be significant questions about Gelbspan's work? For people like me, specific evidence proving why skeptics are discredited is turning out to be impossible to find on the internet, namely "smoking gun" influence of big industry tampering resulting in obvious errors in their science reports. Isn't in your best interest to periodically mention why new reports such as the NIPCC 2009 Report need not be considered, if they can be directly tied to skeptics continually employing corrupt science interpretation methods, thus saving people and prominent policymakers the bother of looking into them? If environmental journalists are unable to first show how the fundamental science conclusions put forward by the skeptics is wrong, followed by irrefutable proof that the skeptics are hopelessly corrupted by big industry influence, isn't the entire body of effort behind the push for CO2 regulation obligated to re-examine the science from top to bottom? And if this turns out to be the case, what defense will journalists have regarding their early dismissal of skeptic scientists?
Dr. Singer -- Thanks for getting in touch. I don't know if you'll remember, but we engaged in several interviews by telephone in the late 1990s and possibly early this decade. Nice to hear from you again. As I've mentioned in my response to Russell, I have no intention of being drawn into a debate about the fine points of the science on this. I can only say that I have been paying attention to this for 20 years, and writing about it for a dozen, and I find your position less than credible for a number of reasons. As far as I can see, that adversarial process is working fine, and you're not winning. That's a judgment I am entitled to make as a journalist who has followed this for some time. Others can make their own judgments. As a practical matter, if I was to respond to everything Eddy Aruda and Russell and you asked, I'd be here all day. That is not my job. And as I mentioned, I do have another part of my job, the bulk of it, which is original reporting to produce news stories. Recall that my original post was about the supposed silencing of a journalist at the SEJ conference. I'd say this conversation has veered pretty darn far from what I wrote about, and so I'm going to have to end my involvement in this conversation and get back to my day job. Thanks for your interest, Robert
Russell -- as I mentioned, I don't have time for a protracted debate here. I did see that the report you referenced by Singer and his colleague was not at all what I first imagined. It takes issued directly with the IPCC in a systematic fashion. It's not a petition, as I'd imagined. I stand corrected. Gelbspan was only the first of many to document payments by industry to a small group of scientists who consistently defend the interests of industry reliant on not controlling greenhouse gas emissions. I didn't write a story or even a blog post about that, so why would I go into great detail reporting on that myself? Others have covered that ground well. Russell, perhaps you didn't realize this, but please recall that this blog is just a sideline of mine, OK? I am out doing original reporting for actual news stories as my main activity, so I don't have time to continue to debate you here. Thanks for your interest, Robert
Mr. McClure Since my name has been mentioned frequently, permit me to enter this discussion. First, a comment about you. From all I can tell, you are trying to do an honest job of reporting, but you are also very busy and therefore do not have time to check all of the details. I don’t blame you; no one has enough time to check every fact. That is why the *adversarial* process is so useful. Every good journo tries to present both sides of an issue – even in the face of great pressure to abandon this principle. You state that in 1997 you concluded “the science was being proved out” – i.e., that global warming was anthropogenic – an AGW, just like the IPCC claimed. In fact, the satellite data, unaffected by urban heat islands and other instrumental problems, showed only a minor warming trend by 1997, compatible with a *zero* trend. (The big temperature rise occurred in 1998 and was caused by El Nino, not by CO2.) Comment #2 by Eddy Aruda cites a fairly complete list of undisputed facts that all contradict the AGW hypothesis of the IPCC. But you do not respond to any of these. Why not? [For detailed references about such facts, please see the NIPCC summary report “Nature – Not Human Activity – Rules the Climate” http://www.sepp.org/publications/NIPCC_final.pdf. For an even shorter version, see “NIPCC findings: CO2 is not a pollutant” http://sepp.org/Archive/NewSEPP/NIPCC_Findings.pdf ] You refer to a “growing agreement [about AGW] by climate scientists.” My impression, based on several polls, is exactly the reverse: that the percentage of *skeptics* is growing. You also question George Taylor’s climate credentials, since his degree is in meteorology. I don’t think that’s a valid argument. Jim Hansen is an astronomer-physicist, Steve Schneider is a civil engineer (I believe), Michael Oppenheimer is a chemist. The chairman of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, is an engineer-economist with no appreciable climate credentials or publications. To anticipate your question, I am an atmospheric physicist with a publication record of more than 50 years. I also coauthored climate books in 2007, 2008, and 2009. Yet you state (in Comment #7) that “Singer is no longer credible.” What is the basis of your opinion? I don’t think the ad hominem smears by Gelbspan are worth responding to. In any case, Russell Cook has ably dealt with them in his several comments. One more point: In Comment #4 you state that Singer has acknowledged that “industrialization has affected the atmosphere.” That is correct; the evidence we have shows that the rise in atmospheric CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) is mainly anthropogenic. But this does not prove that the general increase in atmospheric *temperature* in the 20th century is human-caused; there is no temperature increase in the 21st century. On the contrary: not only is there no evidence in support of a significant AGW but the empirical data show that natural forcings have dominated any human effects. And natural climate change is essentially unstoppable. ********************************************
Robert - thank you for the book reference. Actually I had already found Gelbspan's internet pages earlier this year for "The Heat is On", but didn't know it was a book. Last year, I found his same Exxon "no-strings $10,000 donation" reference entirely on my own at Fred Singer's web site seen here: http://www.sepp.org/key%20issues/glwarm/gelbspan.html . It should be noted that Singer rebuts Gelbspan's claims about mega-dollar industry payments on that web page, and then says "The Heat is On" book cover's inner sleeve statement about Gelbspan being a Pulitzer Prize winner is false. A search at pulitzer.org does not turn up his name. In a 4/18/05 Mother Jones interview of him titled "Hot and Bothered: An Interview with Ross Gelbspan", he contends that in 1984, the publisher of the paper where he worked said, "This is your series. You conceived it, you directed it; so we are designating you as recipient on behalf of the Boston Globe", yet Wikipedia's entry for the '84 Pulitzer Prize Boston Globe contributors matches the Pulitzer list, while the Globe's own web page includes him and two others not seen on the Pulitzer list. Does this lack of full disclosure about the situation on his book cover sleeve pose credibility problems for Gelbspan? Regarding your contention that 'widespread payments by industry to skeptic scientists' is documented since Gelbspan's, I assume your assessment of Singer's and others' lack of credibility is based on all of those. If so, did you check the veracity of Gelbspan's and the others' claims? Did you ask Singer or Exxon directly about payments and what was expected from them? If you made such checks, did you further determine what specific errors or deceptive intentions are seen as a result in his papers and personal presentations? As for your prior mention of the payments being "handsome sums" are you aware of other proven payments to Singer besides the one I saw that ultimately add up to "handsome sums" for him? Also, regarding your assessment that people "who sign are not climatologists" - sign what? The Singer / Idso NIPCC 2009 Report cites scientists' peer-reviewed science journal-published papers, much like what the IPCC reports do. If you narrow your personal approval of papers to climatologists, does that also exclude work done by IPCC scientists who are not climatologists? Is the work of scientists who primarily study sun activity or ice core measurements automatically excluded because they don't study climate change overall?
Folks -- just circling back after several very long workdays. Dennis -- I'm so glad you've found Dateline Earth. Please come back. I've been interested in the acoustics issue as it relates to orcas and other marine creatures, so I was interested to read your comments. I, too, seek out quiet spots in the wilderness from time to time and I do value that solitude. Russell -- The first person to document widespread payments by industry to "skeptic" scientists, as far as I know, was journalist Ross Gelbspan in his book, circa 1997, "The Heat is On." But it's been documented since then, too. I'll check out the report Singer put together. I've seen several of these. Typically the scientists who sign are not climatologists. And some of them aren't even scientists. But I'll take a look, and thanks. Robert McClure
Robert - I would never suggest that you lie to your readers, but I will ask you the following, (as no doubt any responsible journalist also would): You allege "this handful of scientists" were corrupted by big industry payments. Are you able to provide specific proof of when and where those payments took place and what the actual amounts were? If so, are you able to provide further specific proof of obvious faults in the scientists' reports payments that were prompted by those payments? With regard to the alleged corruption of Fred Singer, are you suggesting the several thousand scientists he cites in his NIPCC 2009 Report ( http://www.nipccreport.org/ ) are also under corrupt influence, and therefore aren't worthy of consideration by either you or the PBS NewsHour reporter staff?
Robert, The questions on, and your responses to, the Al Gore reluctance-to-answer story are the first breath of journalistic fresh air I've had since the Seattle P-I went silent. My daily experience was picking and choosing good stories on current issues to read, with thoughtful editorial opinion pieces. Since then I've been adrift until I landed here, via The Seattle PostGlobe. Thanks for taking up the challenge of carrying on a writing career in a non-profit, non-traditional mode of reporting, and sharing your stories on the web. And on just one point in your replies to the comments, the cherry-picking one, I see that happening all the time as a consulting environmental acoustician, primarily when potential lawsuits are in the offing. The most public case of exaggeration (my opinion) in the acoustical world I work in, is the claim that anthropogenic noise dominates everywhere except one square inch, and that one is on the Olympic peninsula. An easy one to refute by counterexample. I just spent a full day last week meandering in an alpine meadow north of Mt Rainier, and did not hear anything other than the excited chittering of juncos. No aircraft within earshot, or rumbling in the distance. Like global warming, the rising tide of noise in our mechanized world is a real thing, and needs better reporting and more thoughtful public regulation. But exaggerated claims of totally pervasive noise just discourages the effort to improve meditative quiet in the world, making it more difficult to discourse with those who are skeptical and have the ranters to single out to prove their point (of doing nothing). Regards, --Dennis
Russell C -- Please call me Robert (although I'm going to have to wrap up this discussion and get back to actual reporting of facts, reading documents, obtaining databases -- the kinds of things that get stories done.) I did not mean to avoid your inquiry. I apologize for not being as clear as I endeavor to be. In a further attempt at clarity: In the late 1980s and 1990s many journalists, including me, consulted with "skeptic" scientists such as Fred Singer and Pat Michaels and Richard Lindzen. At the time that was probably appropriate, because while the evidence on balance seemed to indicate climate change was going on and was at least partially caused by humans, some uncertainty remained. At the time, skeptics said global warming wasn't happening. Then they said it might be going on, but it wasn't being influenced by human actions. Later they said that maybe it is being influenced by human actions, but the results won't be as devastating as most fear. And so forth. Bear in mind that this handful of scientists, whose views even by the late 1990s were in a very small minority, were largely being paid handsome sums by industries that stood to suffer if production of greenhouse gases were reduced. (Linzen is an exception, as far as I know. At least the last I checked, he had only accepted something like $10,000 from industries whose ox stood to be gored. But his view was still distinctly a minority one.) I cannot speak for The News Hour, but I do know that for me and most other journalists covering climate change, there came a time when scientists like Singer and Michaels no longer were credible. Yes, we *could* have one of them in a story, or on a show, and have a representative of the "other side." But that would be false balance. It would be -- and I'm sure you would be fine with this -- presenting to readers or viewers or listeners the idea that there are two ideas about this that deserve equal treatment in the mind of the news consumer. We would be, then, betraying our readers, listeners and viewers. We would be, in effect, telling a lie. We would be saying that the skeptics' view is equally valid as the IPCC's, when in fact we knew through years of reporting that these views are not nearly as credible. So, again, I can't speak for The News Hour, but please don't ask me to lie to my readers, my viewers or my listeners. I won't do that. Moving on, Robert
Mr McClure - Al Gore sidestepped the question McAleer asked. You sidestepped the one I asked, which can be boiled down to, "Why don't NewsHour reporters ask about criticism of the IPCC's conclusions?" My question is not about the relative expertise of the scientists, it's about probing journalistic questions. The reason I cited George Taylor is because he was the closest thing to a "skeptic" I've found on the NewsHour, of any description. His appearance was in the form of an interview about his own difficulties with the Governor of Oregon. I don't know of any reason why Steve Schneider can't be counterbalanced by S Fred Singer, or that Michael Oppenheimer can't debate Richard Lindzen. As for the idea that 'skeptic scientists acknowledge human effect on climate'; so what? The question is, what causes global warming, and can if be proved humans are largely responsible for it? Schneider, Oppenheimer and others would have us believe we are, and the NewsHour reporters don't bother to ask if there might be any other causes. THAT is the critical point. A variety of experts in atmospheric studies, CO2, solar, ocean currents, and other areas could be brought in to dispute that conclusion. I ask again - is this not journalistic malfeasance when the NewsHour fails to analyze the existence of skeptic criticism? Did they report only half of the story of Gore's Peace Prize, when they left out the details of the British court ruling on his movie?
Russell C -- thanks for coming to the blog and for stating your take on this. It's very difficult if not impossible to find climate scientists who are publishing in peer-reviewed science journals who do not acknowledge a manmade effect on the climate. The reason you don't see many on, say, the News Hour is that very few if any exist. There are other scientists out there who are not convinced (yet) that the human role is a large one. But they are not climatologists, are not publishing in peer-reviewed journals and simply don't have the scientific credibility of those who are, and who do. For example, you cited George Taylor, the former state climatologist of Oregon. He holds a degree in meteorology, not in climatology. It may not sound like it, but they are significantly different disciplines. And, even if one were to stipulate that Dr. Taylor is an expert on equal footing with climatologists who are actually doing climate research (a dubious proposition), consider this quotation from Dr. Taylor: "I don't deny that human activities affect climate change. But I believe up to now, natural variations have played a more important role than human activities." Not only does he acknowledge a human role in changing the climate, he throws in the extremely important caveat that *up to now* (he believes) manmade influences are not as large as natural variation. Robert McClure
Mr. Aruda -- thanks for weighing in. After following climate change science for 20 years, and writing about it for a dozen, I think I am on firm ground in saying that the debate about *whether* industrialization as previously practiced has affected the atmosphere is over -- at least among scientists seriously studying the matter. Even longtime "skeptic" scientists like Pat Michaels and Fred Singer will acknowledge that. That was not true a decade ago. There is still plenty of uncertainty about the pace at which climate change will proceed (so far it's just going a lot faster than anyone expected even a decade ago) as well as what its effects will be, precisely. But, really, when even the IPCC (which moves completely by consensus -- meaning one party can halt forward movement) says it's pretty much certain that we're affecting the climate, I find it difficult to pay much attention to the cherry-picked arguments by laymen, such as you, to the effect that those thousands of scientists are wrong. So, I guess I agree with you: The truth will win out. In fact, it already is. Robert McClure
"The idea that journalists on the environment beat don’t ask environmentalists tough questions is way off base." - if that is so, what is the explanation for one of the stalwarts of fair-and-balanced journalism, PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer", never once asking tough questions of guests such as Michael Oppenheimer or Stephen Schneider about conclusions offered by skeptic scientists? Do a site search of the NewsHour, and you will see no such questions, nor any counterbalancing guests to those supporting the IPCC conclusions. The only skeptic I can find on the NewsHour was George Taylor, back in 2007. Meanwhile, on a 10/12/07 NewsHour story about Al Gore winning the Peace Prize, not a word was said about the much publicized British Court ruling two days prior. Are these not egregious examples of journalistic malfeasance?
Mr. McClure, Although I think most of the scientists who propagate the bogus anthropogenic global warming scare will be unemployed and probably working as carnival employees at the Midway in the next couple of years I am forced to agree with you that Mr. McAleer could have asked a better follow up question. By the way, can anyone provide me with one tangible piece of empirical evidence that man is responsible for most of the global warming we have experienced since coming out of the little ice age in the mid-nineteenth century? Al Gore's big graph shows that warming precedes CO2 changes (cause and effect), Mann, Briffa et. al.'s hockey sticks are broken, the Hadley Research Center has "lost" much of the data used by the IPCC to argue its case for global warming, none of the climate models predicted the current lack of global warming, none of the climate models agree with each other (which one is right?), the oceans are not warming, there is no "hotspot" as the theory call for, 86% of the temperature measurement stations in the U.S. do not meet NOAA standards, the astronomer Jim Hansen of NASA uses NOAA data instead of the much more reliable satellite data (verified and confirmed by weather balloon data), the geological record shows no historical correlation between CO2 and temperatures and if Al Gore says that the debate is over could you please tell me where I can find the video of "the big debate"? All I could find on youtube were the debates held by IQ squared in New York and St. Andrews College in Edinburgh, Scotland. In both debates the proponents of anthropogenic global warming were soundly defeated. Could it possibly be that the proponents of AGW are afraid that they would lose at the national level, as well? Al Gore dodges questions and refuses to debate because he is a green carpetbagger who is still bitter about not being the 43rd president. He lost the presidential election due to the fact he couldn't carry his home state. If he would have, Florida would have been a moot issue. Now, he has a way to gain a huge fortune and rule the world. Wow, what a guy! Please do not respond with Ad hominem, Argumentum Ad Verecunediam or argumentum ad ignorantiam. I know that the climate is always changing so you do not need to "prove" that the climate is changing. Please provide the empirical proof that man is largely responsible for the climate change we have recently experienced. You see, I use to be a believer in man made global warming doom and gloom until I did my homework. I live in liberal Sonoma County. I wish I could believe in man made global warming as it would improve my social life. As Shakespeare once said, "The truth will out." So, please help me out.
Mr. McClure, While I would like to agree with you, the preponderance of evidence of Mr. Gore and the pro-AGW coterie receiving slavish media coverage over the past 20 years is staggering. If you were to conduct a Lexis-Nexis comparison of pro vs. con stories, I would hasten to bet it runs 80%+ in favor of "pro-AGW". If the other SEJ journos knew/know Mr. Gore is reluctant to answer questions, doesn't that say something about the weakness of his argument? The AGW-skeptics are more than willing to engage in an open, moderated, televised debate with anyone from the pro-AGW camp. That being the case, who is more confident of their science and evidence? Considering the impact of any human attempt to control or influence global climate, doesn't it seem reasonable to "question authority" - be it from the IPCC or anywhere else?